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Perspectives on FM in a Global Pandemic

Company News / PR | Facilities Management

03/08/20 | Rebecca Drewett

The Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the world as we once knew it, impacting businesses of all sizes and sectors. This includes the FM industry, and in this series of articles, we ask our employees across the globe to share their experiences of the crisis, what it has meant for the industry in their area, and the role FM is playing to support people and businesses in these difficult circumstances.

In this edition, Karen Stevens discusses the situation in the Middle East, and how FM is adapting in this challenging landscape.

Following Facilities Management’s official classification as an essential service, there is now a wider realisation, outside of the industry, that FM and building maintenance doesn’t stop – not for holiday periods, not for religious events and not even for a global pandemic and the shuttering of businesses, economies and counties.

Whilst many of the sectors we operate in, including retail, education, transport, hospitality and commercial space, have been devastated by the current situation, the service providers, property management companies and facilities managers who support these sectors have shifted into emergency responder mode. For businesses such as FSI, who supply and support the tools these providers use to facilitate what they do, the response is the same.

The GCC and MENA regions are considered, when compared to the UK, a somewhat immature FM market. However, the region’s willingness to adopt and use technology reflects the young, dynamic, tech-savvy attitude of those driving the Middle East Facilities Management industry towards its next phase. In the challenging times we find ourselves in – and will continue to operate within for the short to medium-term – the benefit of using technology to manage businesses and resources has become even more evident.

FSI is in the fortunate position of being able to deliver our services to our clients business as usual. The nature of our work and the systems we have in place globally allow all our staff to continue to provide service continuity to our clients and those in the process of onboarding with FSI.

Our emphasis in the last few months has been on communicating this important message to our clients: “We are here, and we are here to support you”. Our clients within the healthcare and residential sectors, who are currently under huge operational strain, have been particularly appreciative of this message.

Our 30 years of experience within the Facilities Management space has also provided us with an understanding of what the sector needs, even during this unprecedented time. Our agility has enabled us to deliver and deploy, in record time, Covid-19-specific solutions such as Screening Apps and Cleaning Audit functionality, which help to ensure compliance with the new stringent health monitoring and sanitisation processes at our clients’ sites.

The Middle East, as with the rest of the world, went through an initial pause in commercial activity, as companies assessed, realigned and reorganised themselves to face the reality of the Covid-19 crisis and the varying levels of lockdowns put in place in different countries.

But, the uncertainty around how long these conditions will remain has forced industries and businesses to emerge from this “hold your breath” period and begin pressing ahead with their objectives. In many cases, this means looking to future proof themselves to operate within the “new normal”, whatever that will look like.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, long considered the sleeping giant of the region, has over the last few years begun to realise its position as the most significant emerging market in the GCC. Whilst the stringent lockdown restrictions imposed in KSA since March have undoubtedly caused recent business interruption, we are now seeing increased activity and re-engagement with clients and potential clients.

However, the recent collapse in oil prices will negatively impact spending on government projects. Combined with the ongoing fallout from the Covid-19 crisis, we expect to see considerable trickle-down pressure on the cost of facilities management services.

What does the future of the FM market look like in the Middle East? A greater appreciation for the role of the professionals who quietly ensure your buildings and premises are functioning perhaps? A greater focus on the health of your buildings, ensuring they are safe, comfortable places to inhabit and compliant with the new regulations that are sure to come?

Most certainly there will be a greater awareness of the importance of technology in delivering FM services. The ability to manage and monitor your estate remotely where necessary, to prove compliance, and to store and analyse the essential data which allows you to make informed decisions. This transition was already underway; the global pandemic and the challenges it has presented has served to only underscore and accelerate this mindset.

While the Covid-19 crisis has presented unprecedented challenges to businesses throughout the Middle East, as Karen Stevens explains, it has also been the catalyst for not only a greater appreciation and understanding of the work the FM industry does every day, but how important technology will be in adapting to this new landscape.

Whatever the future of FM holds in the Middle East, our team at FSI will continue to do our utmost to support them in these tough times and moving forward, ensuring FM providers can rise to challenges like this and push ahead in the evolution of their industry.